Wow, what a question. What do I love most? Beyond the warm fuzzies that come with reading a well-written sentence or the ego-trip that accompanies a a finished manuscript? Beyond the drive to do better and the sense of accomplishment when you do? Beyond my capricious need to do terrible things to my characters? Beyond the community and connection that comes with writing and reading and loving both?
My reasons are purely selfish. What I love most about writing and/or reading is the way if changes my world.
Reading taught me to dream in the infinite. It taught me that I can go anywhere and become anyone. It showed me how to hold on to my family, and how to let them go. It introduced me to new friends and new enemies and taught me how to tell the difference. It showed me that it’s okay to question, but it’s not okay to settle for less. It taught me to hope for more and plan for twice that. It made me cry, laugh, love more, and long for more. Reading showed me the limits of my world and threw open the doors to make it bigger. I read books that taught me about speaking the truth, without the trappings of obsessive love or physical beauty. I learned how to strike out on my own and make the right decisions regardless of familial ties or popular opinion. I learned that happily ever afters are possible, but that they don’t always come wrapped in neat Prince-Charming packaging. I read about broken people and broken things and the love and loss that makes them whole.
And then writing made it my own. Writing took everything that I ever loved about reading and showed me what I actually believed about all of it. Because if I truly believed that reading could change the landscape of my world, then I should be willing to write like that. So I did. I wrote about myself, and my questions, and my ideal Mary Jane life. I wrote about the person I wanted to become and the person I currently was. And through writing, I answered myself. I answered my junior-high self with the perfect-family story that (eventually) showed me the imperfectness of my own family and how that was okay. I answered my freshman-year self with a fairy tale that reminded me that truly happy endings can’t be manufactured by a fairy godmother. I took my junior-year self and wrote out the confusion into a girl who took charge of her life and had the confidence I wished I had. And then I poured out every bit of senior-year and post-high school self and crammed it into a draft that wrung my heart out and asked me what I truly believed in anymore. The writing pulled everything out of me that I was unwilling to let go. And if I was able to write about and read about how brokenness could be made whole, then I knew that in real life, it was possible for me, too.
I love to read. I love to write. Reading feels like being a passenger to anywhere. Writing puts me in the driver’s seat, and the view is infinite.
“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.” Anna Quindlen